The brief: to sympathetically update the iconic 1960s Riva runabout.
The response: a timeless design from Marc Newson that pioneers the use of new materials at sea and which is being sold as a floating sculpture through Gagosian Gallery.
The silhouette of the new Aquariva by Marc Newson speedboat pays homage to the classic Riva Aquarama runabout of the 1960s: with its sweeping lines, wrap round windscreen and sunbathing deck at the stern, Newson paid utmost respect to the original project by Officina Italiana Design.
“I wanted the boat to look timeless, very, very slick, very much understated and very, very cool,” explains Newson. “What I strive for – in all my work – is to create something that will stand the test of time.”
While its shape was essentially preserved, Newson made innovations in his signature use of new materials and meticulously considered details.
“With the Aquariva, I decided to go a bit against the grain, using materials uncommon to luxury boats, specifically ones that differ from the traditional shining chrome aesthetic,” he says. “I replaced stainless steel and brass with anodized aluminium, and instead of wood for the deck and instrument panel, I used a fibre-based laminate that retains the organic feel and essence of wood, while being significantly more durable and even slightly anachronistic.”
It is this blend of form, function and style that elevates the Aquariva from the status of an iconic piece of industrial design to that of floating sculpture. Indeed, the Aquariva by Marc Newson will be sold as such: it is available through Gagosian Gallery in an edition of 22 vessels.
“Aquariva is a natural extension of the artist’s work with planes and automobiles,” says Larry Gagosian. He sums up its allure: “The result looks back to La Dolce Vita of the 1950s 1960s and forward to the latest trends in nautical design. I can’t wait until it is on the water.”
Marc Newson discusses his first nautical project, Aquariva:
How was your design approach different for the limited edition Aquariva by Marc Newson than in previous projects?
People ask me what I do and I say I’m a problem solver. The only difference when I approach a new project, frankly, is one of scale. My job is to examine everything about the boat, all the thousands of little details, most of which those on board will never notice, and make sure that they’re intelligently designed. I apply the same logic, the same design language, and the same vocabulary to everything I design. Whether it is an airplane, a watch, a cooking utensil, or a boat – I look at the piece as an object that needs to be designed. Ultimately, I wanted the boat to look timeless, very, very slick, very much understated and very, very cool. What I strive for – in all my work – is to create something that will stand the test of time. That is incredibly important to me.
What does it mean to you to work with this iconic Italian brand?
As a kid, I was very influenced by Italian design. What was happening in postwar Italy, including with automotive design, enormously inspired me. There were crazy people, like Carlo Mollino, who was sort of designing everything from cars to planes. I was inspired by the Italians’ ability to touch so many different areas. With the Aquariva project, following in the giant footsteps of the Aquarama and previous Aquariva design with my first completed boat, that Italian influence is coming full circle.
In the past, you have designed furniture, interiors, timepieces, as well as major projects in aviation and aerospace. Now, you are completing your first nautical project with Riva. What do you think makes you such a versatile designer?
I think that my ability to experiment has been crucial to my success. I’m constantly looking for new materials and manufacturing techniques and new materials are always being sent to me. But there aren’t a lot of new technologies that are popping up. A lot of innovation is actually using materials designed for one purpose for another – utilizing existing technologies in innovative ways. In most corporate environments, designers are often enlisted who all have similar training and speak the same language. This kind of homogeny results in the same kinds of designs over and over again. It’s very important to be able to cross-reference different areas of industry and design. I have been fortunate to work in a wide range of disciplines. My frame of reference is contemporary culture. I have always travelled, and lived and worked in cosmopolitan cities across the world. Each experience has informed the next.
What is your process for choosing materials to incorporate into a project?
In design, materials have an essential role to play, but for me they are more a means of expression. People often ask me which is my favourite material, and of course I don’t have a favourite. They are the means to an end. Materials to me are like words for a writer: we have to use a lot of words to express ourselves. I am not interested solely in materials; in fact in a way I am obsessed by the process, the techniques and the transformation of materials, the way things are created as much as the materials themselves. Two things really interest me: materials and processes. I don’t design in order to collect the objects I create; The only thing I get out of designing is knowledge, know-how, and the fact of understanding how to design something new. So I have learnt something. Each time I create an object, it’s as if I learn a new lesson; pass a new university diploma. With the Aquariva, I decided to go a bit against the grain, using materials uncommon to luxury boats, specifically ones that differ from the traditional shining chrome aesthetic. I replaced stainless steel and brass with anodized aluminium, and instead of wood for the deck and instrument panel, I used a fibre-based laminate that retains the organic feel and essence of wood, while being significantly more durable and even slightly anachronistic.
You mention being able to draw from many disciplines and cultural experiences. How did growing up in your native Australia influence your work?
Honestly, I think that being Australian has given me a big advantage, because I started designing with none of the constraints of tradition. As a kid I always built and engineered thing like surfboards, go-karts, bikes. Australia is an odd place in that sense: it’s got a great tradition of invention, with some of the most inspiring people just designing things in their sheds. My family did: my uncle built hot rod cars, my grandfather and his family of eight were carpenters, immigrants from Greece. Growing up in this environment, I picked things up by osmosis. These are the roots of my interest in transport design that have led me to create my interpretation of Aquariva.
Aquariva by Marc Newson will be available exclusively through Gagosian Gallery, with whom you had your first exhibition in 2007. That was a groundbreaking one, as it was the gallery’s first solo exhibition of a contemporary designer. What are your feelings on working with Gagosian?
When I get to work with Larry, it is like making things for me again. I have fun, the way I used to. It allows for more freedom and more excellence. It is the only way I truly have the opportunity to express myself without being held back in any way. On this project, Riva gave me that same level of creative control, which was amazing. It made perfect sense for these two forward thinking entities to join forces and make this unique project a reality.
Aquariva by Marc Newson will be exhibited at Gagosian Gallery, New York, in its Transport exhibition, which runs from September 14 through October 16.